Aside from Joseph Smith, The First Person to View the Gold Plates Was a Woman

Mary Whitmer and Moroni by Robert T. Pack
Mary Whitmer and Moroni by Robert T. Pack

There is so much about church history that we don’t know, but technology and time have allowed us to learn so much more.

As an example, did you know that Mary Whitmer was the only woman to see the gold plates, and she saw them even before the three witnesses did?

In the new church history series, Saints, they share countless stories about the women of the church who have left a legacy of faith.

The following excerpt shares the story of Mary Whitmer’s faith and sacrifice which led to a miracle visit from Moroni.

“Once Joseph, Emma, and Oliver moved to Fayette, David’s mother had her hands full. Mary Whitmer and her husband, Peter, already had eight children between the ages of fifteen and thirty, and the few who did not still live at home resided nearby. Tending to their needs filled Mary’s days with work, and the three houseguests added more labor. Mary had faith in Joseph’s calling and did not complain, but she was getting tired.

The heat in Fayette that summer was sweltering. As Mary washed clothes and prepared meals, Joseph dictated the translation in an upstairs room. Oliver usually wrote for him, but occasionally Emma or one of the Whitmers took a turn with the pen.

Sometimes, when Joseph and Oliver tired of the strain of translating, they would walk out to a nearby pond and skip stones across the surface of the water.

Mary had little time to relax herself, and the added work and the strain placed on her were hard to bear.

One day, while she was out by the barn where the cows were milked, she saw a gray-haired man with a knapsack slung across his shoulder. His sudden appearance frightened her, but as he approached, he spoke to her in a kind voice that set her at ease.

“My name is Moroni,” he said. “You have become pretty tired with all the extra work you have to do.” He swung the knapsack off his shoulder, and Mary watched as he started to untie it.

“You have been very faithful and diligent in your labors,” he continued. “It is proper, therefore, that you should receive a witness that your faith may be strengthened.”

Moroni opened his knapsack and removed the gold plates. He held them in front of her and turned their pages so she could see the writings on them. After he turned the last page, he urged her to be patient and faithful as she carried the extra burden a little longer. He promised she would be blessed for it.

You have been very faithful and diligent in your labors

The old man vanished a moment later, leaving Mary alone. She still had work to do, but that no longer troubled her.”¹

Book of Mormon Central provides the references for the full detail of Mary Whitmer, whose encounter is described in three separate accounts. The most famous is from her son, David:

…my mother was going to milk the cows, when she was met out near the yard by the same old man (judging by her description of him) [whom David had seen on the roadside in a prior incident] who said to her, ‘You have been very faithful and diligent in your labors, but you are tired because of the increase of your toil, it is proper therefore that you should receive a witness that your faith may be strengthened.’ Thereupon he showed her the plates.[2]

John C. Whitmer recalled this further tidbit from his grandmother’s story:

[The personage] turned the plates over, leaf after leaf, and also showed her the engravings upon them; after which he told her to be patient and faithful in bearing her burden a little longer, promising that if she would do so, she should be blessed; and her reward would be sure, if she proved faithful to the end. The personage then suddenly vanished with the plates, and where he went, she could not tell.[3]

More insights are offered by another granddaughter, who said Mary Whitmer was irritated when Joseph and Oliver took breaks from translating and skated rocks on a pond.”  “[She] thought they might just as well carry her a bucket of water or chop a bit of wood . . .” and planned to order them out of her house. Such anxieties were relieved by Moroni’s timely visitation.[4]

You can read more about Mary, and other stories of the early members of the Church, in Saints.

[1]Mary Whitmer and Moroni

[2] David Whitmer, interview with Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith, September 1878, published 16 November 1878 in the Deseret News, reproduced by Dan Vogel in Early Mormon Documents, 5:51-52 (Salt Lake City, Utah: 2003)

[3] John C. Whitmer, 1878 account, as recorded by Andrew Jenson (see his Latter-Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia 1:283, Salt Lake City, Utah: 1901).

[4] “Elvira Pamela Mills”, Cox Bulletin II (1958), written by Orville Cox Day (O C Day). Mary Musselman Whitmer’s recorded encounters are compiled for individual review in Royal Skousen, “Another Account of Mary Whitmer’s Viewing of the Golden Plates,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 10 (2014): 35–44.


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Mary Whitmer was the first witness of the Gold Plates

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  • Mormon historical revisionism, sometimes on a daily basis, is that substance on which “official” Mormon history is predicated. Just like the seven accounts Joe Smith gave of his first vision, all very different, and all after 1834. The same applied to Smith’s and Cowdery’s account of their visits with angels when the Mormon priesthoods were supposedly “restored.” No mention of it was made until during 1835. No mention of it was made in the 1833 Book of Commandments and Smith couldn’t even remember the exact date when the Mormon high priesthood was given by three angels. Now, a Mormon apologist is attempting to change what Mormon full-time missionaries have recited in their five-discussion spiels since around 1955. When the apostate witness of Mormonism’s golden plates, David Whitmer, has stated, as Joe Smith’s wife, Emma, that old Joe didn’t translate the golden plates to produce the Book of Mormon, but instead used a “seer stone” in a hat to produce what is written in the BOM, someone is now saying that David Whitmer had possession of the golden plates before Joe Smith allowed his three special witnesses to see them with your “spiritual eyes,” whatever that meant. That person is trying now to say that Whitmer had the golden plates in his possession and showed them to his wife, Mary.

    My assessment of Whitmer’s original story, in his “An Address to All Believers in Christ,” is that he sincerely believed that he had seen something resembling golden plates through his “spiritual eyes.” I believe that Joe Smith was so charismatically tuned into folk magic, mysticism, and the occult, that he mesmerized those three witnesses, Whitmer, Cowdery, and Harris, into seeing what he had crafted as golden plates. If that savvy farmer had actually deceived Joe Smith into believing that the Kinderhook plates, which that farmer had crafted for the specific purpose of showing Smith for what he was, a false prophet, Smith could have deceived his witnesses into believing that what they saw were actual gold plates.

    The official record recited by the Mormon Church, from around 1850 until the present-day, has stated that “no one” had witnessed the golden plates but Cowdery, Harris, David Whitmer, Christian Whitmer, Peter Whitmer, Jr. John Whitmer, Hiram Page, Joseph Smith, Sr. Hyrum Smith, and Samuel H. Smith. Those were quite a few mesmerized Whitmers and Smiths. Of course, the official biography of Joe Smith, Jr. by his mother, Lucy Mack Smith, did not jibe with what Brigham Young wanted the world to read and think about old Joe; so he revised it without Lucy’s permission to reflect some things that were totally untrue.

  • I frankly do not agree with or understand why you let apostates publish anything in a Mormon publication. What is the thought process here? The apostates and non-believers are certainly entitled to disagree, not believe, and do their anti-Mormon ranting if they wish to, BUT NOT ON A Mormon site that should be intended for lifting the Saints, enlightening their minds and increasing their faith. I encourage ALL Latter Day Saints to Refuse and Rebuke all apostate material, inspired by satan himself, the Anti-Christ. Why would you want to fill your mind with garbage, lies, and deceit. Reject all apostate material, in all it’s forms. It is intended to make you DOUBT your FAITH. Jesus said Doubt Not. Why read or study something that will make you doubt? Doubt is the opposite of Faith. So what do you want to be full of, FAITH or doubt. For many or most Latter Day Saints many parts of our faith has moved over to knowledge as Alma taught. Yet apostate garbage can make you doubt what you KNOW to be true. So Stop It! And please stop publishing that garbage in this Mormon Venue.

  • Our prophets have warned members to get their own personal testimonies of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Read and apply Moroni 10: 4-5. I did many years ago. I did receive a divine witness as to the truthfulness of The Book of Mormon. I testify the Book of Mormon is trtrue!

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There is so much about church history that we don’t know, but technology and time have allowed us to learn so much more. As...
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